God expects Christians to plan their giving. Otherwise, the wise man would not have advised us to honor the Lord with our “firstfruits” (Prov. 3:9). In the farming industry, the “firstfruits” refer to the initial yield of the harvest, the very best a farmer had to give. Metaphorically speaking, one cannot give his “firstfruits” accidentally or spontaneously. He must budget, plan, and save so that he can give a key portion of his wealth to God.
Planned giving was endorsed by Paul as he was taking up a collection for the poor saints who lived in Jerusalem. Writing to the church at Corinth about this project, he says, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2). Paul did not want the Corinthians to scrounge something together in a hurry when he arrived. He knew he would not have much to take with him if they contributed that way. By setting up a plan whereby the Christians would give as they prospered when they assembled together for worship on the first day of every week, the apostle ensured that there would be enough funding to satisfy the needs of the brethren in Judea. In a second letter he continued to push this strategy to the Corinthians, saying, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
Today is Purpose Sunday. The elders are asking each family to fill out a purpose card stating what they intend to give on a weekly basis in the coming year. The reason for doing this is twofold: (1) it will give the elders an idea of what they can expect from the congregation in 2016; (2) it will provide each Christian with a concrete way to practice the Scriptural exercise of planning what they will give to the Lord.
There was once a tribe in Africa that elected a new king every seven years. After each seven-year term, they would kill the king. For seven years the tribe member who enjoyed this high position was given every luxury known to savage life. His authority was absolute, even in judgments of life and death. For seven years he ruled and was honored with great possessions, but at the end of his reign he died. Every member of the tribe was aware of this, for it was a long standing custom. Still, the tribe never lacked a candidate for the post. Scores of eager tribesmen lined up for it, willing to trade their lives for seven years of luxury and power.
We may laugh at pagan practices, but in the proudest civilization in the world men are still exchanging wealth in this life for bankruptcy in the hereafter. It’s time we think more about our giving. May God bless us as we prayerfully consider what we will plan to give.